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High school extracurricular activities: suggestions

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This page builds on the ideas of the page high school extracurricular activities: factors to consider by discussing different types of extracurricular activities.

Because colleges don't appear to favor applicants who are involved in a large number of extracurricular activities, you should take advantage of the opportunity to base your choice of extracurricular activities in areas that will interest you, and/or extracurricular activities that are conducive to personal growth. Some extracurricular activities that we recommend are:

Creating something new

One of the best ways to learn about the world and about yourself is to create something new. Creating something new is also good for college admissions: it shows greater independence, initiative, and originality than participating in school clubs.

  • If you're passionate about writing, this could be a book.
  • If you're passionate about math, this could be a mathematical research paper.
  • If you're passionate about programming, this could be a software.
  • If you're passionate about education, this could be an after school educational enrichment program for them.

Participating in online communities

One of the virtues of the internet is that it enables people to find others who share their interests. Because the population of people who use the internet is large, participating in online communities can give you access to some very knowledgable people who you can learn more from than the people who you know in person. Some ideas for online communities that you might participate in are:

  • Quora — a question and answer website where you can ask and answer questions about any subject that interests you. See our join Quora page.
  • LessWrong — A group blog where participants discuss psychology, philosophy, self-improvement, artificial intelligence, and the far future.
  • The Stack Exchange Network. This includes StackOverflow, a computer programming Q&A site, and other sites such as the Math StackExchange.

Research and laboratory work

Some of the most impressive accomplishments of high school students has arisen from work at research laboratories. Generally, this begins with making contact with researchers at nearby universities and research centers expressing interest in working for them and helping out with stuff for free. They might be willing to give you a chance for a short while, and you are likely to be able to learn a lot.

For more suggestions on this, see the answers to the Quora question How can a high schooler get involved with scientific research?


Further information: Internship opportunities for high school students

You can learn more about careers that interest you by doing internships at companies and nonprofits.

Earning to give

A lot of community service work and volunteer work isn't an efficient way of helping people. An alternative that you should consider is earning to give. If you get a job, or work a few extra hours at your job, you can save up money that you can donate to charity. Some charities are very impactful. For example, GiveDirectly gives 90% of donations to very poor Kenyans who have household incomes that are about ~$1000/year. If you donate ~$1000 to GiveDirectly, you can double a poor Kenyan family's income for a year, enabling the family to buy things like a metal roof to replace a leaky thatch roof.

However, it's worth noting that developing valuable skills is more important at the current stage than earning to give, because even small variations in your future earning potential or the future activities you can do would dwarf any money you can give today.